Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Opening Day

Today was Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Globe just published a feature about the nonbelievers, Bostonians who remain immune to Red Sox fever, and I have to confess that I stand among them. Baseball? I could give a damn.

First, there are too many games. Every MLB team plays 162 games, not counting the postseason. In the NFL, teams play 16 games and every one counts. On one hand, you can argue that baseball players have to work harder; but for the fans, it's more difficult to care about the outcome of any individual game. The stakes simply aren't as high.

Individual teams play each other too often, also. The Red Sox have a famous rivalry with the New York Yankees — a grudge that should be even hotter this year, following Johnny Damon's defection. But this year, the Sox and the Yankees are scheduled to play 19 games in 6 different meetings. It's a rivalry without a showdown. Hardly the anticipation created by the annual Army-Navy game.

Even the weekly schedules are redundant. When two teams meet, they play between 2 and 4 games over a couple days. So your team wins on Monday, and my team wins on Tuesday. Where's the sport? If they're just going to play again tomorrow, who cares what happens tonight?

And there's the nature of the game itself. The term "perfect game" refers to one where a pitcher manages to pitch for nine innings without a single player reaching first base. The implication, obviously, is that outfielders exist just in case. Each game is advertised like a boxing match, pitcher versus pitcher. Played at its highest level, it's not really a team sport.

But my favorite aspect is the price. Ignoring the cost of tickets, which has become obscene, a hot dog will cost you $4. If you want a beer, that's another $7. Parking runs from $40–60, with one lot promising to charge $90 this year. Tell me again how this is the game of the red-blooded, blue-collar American.

I watched the 2004 World Series. When you live in Boston, the postseason fever can be contagious. The team hadn't won a championship in 86 years, so there was actually something at stake. But that was the last week of October. The preceding six months? Inconsequential.

I'd like to care. I really would. It's an American institution; and honestly, most of the ways in which it's been screwed up have nothing to do with the spirit of the game. But the product being pitched by MLB and broadcast on television simply isn't interesting. It isn't engaging. It's replete with redundancy and anticlimax. And I could give a damn.


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